Pre-concert talk on Arvo Pärt

One of the things I really love about giving pre-concert talks is being able to share new discoveries of mine with the RSNO audience, and hopefully enthuse them to go searching for new musical worlds themselves.

Last week was a real voyage of discovery for me. I’d previously felt a little put off Pärt’s music for two main reasons:

Firstly, the tag of “sacred minimalism”: I admit, I’m no great fan of minimalist music and, on top of that, this particular tag comes across to me as being a little trite. However, whilst Pärt’s music often uses simple textures and small units of music, it doesn’t have that incessant twitchiness and rapidly revolving short motifs that I find hard to cope with in other minimalist composers’ music! Rather it has a stillness and meditative quality about it which is really quite peaceful and beautiful.

Secondly, I don’t mind admitting as a viola player, that Pärt can be quite painful to play, as a lot of it involves static muscle-use! Sometimes it’s hard to get beyond that pain barrier and into the music itself.

The other revelation for me was that Pärt was more associated with the avant-garde in his earlier music. The Third Symphony that the RSNO performed last week is a transitional work between these styles. It was also dedicated to Neeme Järvi and in exploring the links between the two men, I came across Credo, the work that led in part to both musicians leaving Soviet-occupied Estonia. It was such a mind-blowing piece that I listened to it twice through in succession.